Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mosquito Woods and other pit stops

Our trip down to Sabine Woods turned up more mosquitos than birds. Raptor activity was high and their were at least two Barn Owls prowling the canopies during the early morning, but the trip overall was a dud and lasted less than an hour. The mosquitos didn't seem to mind that we'd bathed in OFF prior to setting foot on the trails. We drove a few miles down to see the state of Sea Rim Park, which is still in disarray after Hurricane Ike. On a tip from a local we tried Tyrrell Park in Beaumont. Unfortunately, Cattail Marsh... the main attraction... was closed, undergoing remediation work. Defeated, we returned to our hotel in Orange.
The next morning we decided to try our luck at Claiborne West Park just up I-10 near Vidor. The parking lot yielded one lonely blue-phase Snow Goose.

The trails didn't give us anything we hadn't seen the day before. Around the swampy lake near the front of the park we saw several Eastern Phoebes, Eastern Bluebirds and several woodpeckers - included a solitary Northern Flicker. As we were leaving, this juvenile Red-Headed Woodpecker peeked out of his home to check us out.

I'm off to Qatar next week, so the birds will have to wait. Next up is Christmas in the LRGV.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cullinan, Bear Creek and Kleb Woods

Yesterday, we took a morning excursion to a couple of spots around town to see what we could see... hoping to cash in on some of the reports of Green-Tailed Towhees being around. We didn't see any Towhees, but did run across an American Kestrel at Cullinan Park... as well as this White-Throated Sparrow.

At Bear Creek, we can across a few Eastern Phoebes, Chickadees and American Robins among others. We hit Kleb Woods just before noon to scout out the parking lot rose bush for the Towhee, but were greeted by more sparrows. A brief walk down the trail at the end of the road turned up a Brown Thrasher as well as a slew of Cardinals, Blue Jays, Chickadees, etc... Next up, 'Our Big Year' training continues as we spend Black Friday at Sabine Woods. Until then...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We're going to do what?!

Holly and I have only been birding since February 2011. It was a dormant passion for me for years, since I was a kid. I remember walking up and down the Southeast Houston street where I grew up, with pad and pencil in hand, logging the different birds I saw. Some I knew... Cardinal, Blue Jay, etc... Some I didn't... brown one, little guy, etc... When I decided late last year that I needed to get a hobby that got me away from the computer and outside with nature, birding came up again. 
We took a trip to the Matagorda County Birding Nature Center. Seemed like the right thing to do, but it really wasn't the season for it. I think we saw more deer than birds. That may have slowed us down a bit, but the outlet was still there, waiting for us to reconnect... and in the winter of this year, we did.
Holly and I attended a Katy Prairie Covey gathering at the newly-opened Warren Lake viewing platform in Hockley, TX. We met some nice people, saw some nice birds... and within 24-hours had dropped a few hundred bucks on a pair of binoculars. Not long after that, a few thousand dollars landed us a new camera rig. We were hooked.

Checking out Warren Lake. That's us on the left!
Every weekend we could get away we made it a point to go birding. We tended to favor Katy Prairie because it was near the house, but we made our way to many other spots as well... including High Island in April for spring migration. We've taken drives to Quintana, Dos Vacas Muertas, Brazos Bend, Choke Canyon, etc... and we've seen some great birds.
After seeing the movie, The Big Year, and later reading the book... and Kenn Kaufman's Kingbird Highway, I started to think about a Big Year. Due to work commitments, it would be next to impossible to pursue any ABA records, but what we could do is have a little fun and raise a little money for bird conservation. That is when I came up with the 'Our Big Year' plan. We have a few rules. 
First, we have to get photographic evidence of the bird. That's right... pictures are mandatory. No picture... no tick on the count sheet. Second, one of us has to take the picture. We can't 'borrow' the photo from someone else who was there, even if we see the bird. If we miss it with the shutter... we miss it. Third... we have to stick to the Lower 48. No Alaska or Canada this time around. Most of the excursions outside of Texas will be planned around pre-existing vacations, business trips, etc... but we'll likely make a handful of out-of-state jaunts just for birds.
We've started the pledging at $2 per bird. So, if our year-end count is 500 birds, Holly and I will be chipping in $1,000 to be split between the Houston Audubon and the Katy Prairie Conservancy. 
We'll be accepting pledges as low as $0.05 per bird. For the same 500 birds, that'd be $25. We hope you will be able to contribute. To pledge, just click the e-mail link at the top, left of this page, give us the pledge amount per bird and a way to contact you. Then sit back and enjoy the updates as we set out starting 1 January on 'Our Big Year 2012'!